-For those within concession affected areas
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the United Nations Peace building Fund, on Thursday, June 28, launched an alternative livelihood project, targeting two communities in Bomi and Nimba counties.
The project, under the title “Strengthening Conflict Prevention through Establishment of Multi stakeholder Platforms and Improved Alternative Livelihoods within Concession Affected Areas,” will cover a community in each of the two counties.
The project is designed to provide alternative livelihood sources for women and youth living in concession affected communities; that is, those living around Sime Darby in Bomi County, and those in ArcelorMittal Concession areas in Nimba County.
“It will build capacity for the affected residents through the introduction of simple innovation technologies to attract the youth in agriculture, and also promote equal participation and social cohesion,” said John Yarkpa, Nimba County Project Officer.
Accordingly, the project will further consolidate peaceful co-existence between concessionaires and community dwellers through mitigated and preventive measures.
FAO Country Director, Madam Mariatou Njie said the project is targeting about 1,200 farmers, with indirect beneficiaries of about 6,000 in the two counties, to include women and children.
She outlined the activities as lowland rice, vegetable, cassava and poultry productions.
The value chain of these crops will be strengthened to provide quality products for the market, thereby targeting increased income for the beneficiaries.
“This has resulted in several major governance and policy achievement. But despite progress made in building peace, several root causes of conflict remain unaddressed,” Madam Njie said.
She said that recent assessments show that land, corruption, boundary disputes and concession related conflicts continue to be the main triggers of violence in the country.
She said concession companies have made some payments to projects in the affected communities for losing access to farmlands and loss of livelihoods; but the payments have not provided the affected communities with alternative livelihood opportunities to sustain themselves.
“Most of the conflicts between project affected communities and concession companies are still related to land allocation, which had deprived communities of their rights and benefits from owning land,” Madam Njie said.
The occasion was attended by local government representatives from Nimba, the ministries of Agriculture, Gender, Youth and Sport.
Representatives of farmers from the affected communities of Bomi and Nimba also attended the program as well as UNDP Peace-building Fund representative.
However, a spokesperson of farmers from Bomi County, Abraham Conway, said the main issue in the county is lack of development, “not unemployment as many have insinuated.”
Conway said in Bomi, a concession company would build roads around their concession areas, leaving out communities that are not too far away.
William Mandein, Ministry of Youth and Sports Nimba Coordinator, said the project will address the lack of jobs being faced by young people living around the affected communities, to include food security.
“We think this project is another way of reconciling the affected communities and the concessionaire,” said Darlington Walaka, farmer representative from Nimba.
The launch was climaxed with a two-day intensive training workshop for farmers on how to formulate workplan and budget as well as log frame.